Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fans of cool style

Fans are a stylish way of keeping comfortably cool during the hot weather we're experiencing and that visitors to the Olympics in Beijing are likely to encounter. They're also a tried and tested method of creating a bit of breeziness too, having been around for quite a while - at least 3,000 years in fact.

If you haven't visited the Fan Museum at Greenwich, I highly recommend it. You can learn all about the history and even the anatomy (left) of the fan. The first types of folding fans were inspired by those brought in by merchant traders from China and Japan. Fans were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and continued to be imported from the Far East, as well as being produced in Europe.

Fans were originally associated with nobility, but gradually became more widely available - though they've always remained something of a fashion statement, if not a showcase for artists ( another case of fashion meeting art in history).

We've got a selection of vintage fans on sale at ShopCurious: from the decorative hand painted oriental variety to dramatic flirty feathered types. These unique accessories make an exotic addition to any outfit and are also great as an unusual gift.

Peacock feathers were often used to embellish Chinese fans (see above right). In China, the peacock is a symbol of beauty and dignity. An old Chinese legend tells the tale of a daughter of a top military commander who painted a peacock on an ornamental screen and promised to marry the first man who could hit the peacock twice with arrows whilst running. This resulted in the curious term "Selection by hitting the bird screen" - a Chinese euphemism for finding a husband.

For some modern day advice on this, click on the pic to the right. Alternatively, you could simply use your fan to create an air of mystery and allure ... and await the response.
Will you?

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Preparing for Beijing

Only ten days to go to the Olympics, so I thought we should have a few blogs about getting ready for the big event. I'm afraid we aren't currently selling any respiratory masks, but wholesale suppliers are welcome to get in touch.

What we do have is a wonderfully unique ammonite pendant, which could come in very handy. Apparently, the original discus used by ancient Greeks in their Olympics was a fossilized ammonite. So, if your local pub is running an Olympic quiz offering a gold medal to the winner (might be worth a bob or two these days) then do remember this curious bit of trivia.

It's also worth noting that the pentathlon was introduced for the first time at the 18th Olympiad in 708 BC, probably by the Spartans as a method of training soldiers. It consisted of running the length of the stadium, throwing the spear, the discus and wrestling (did they miss one out?) Anyway, now we have the modern pentathlon and the throwing events seem to be reserved for the decathlon - if that's not too ancient an activity for this year's Olympic Games ... I can't spot it on the schedule of events can you?

I'm beginning to feel exhausted just thinking about all these sports. I hope the athletes are getting some good rest in before the competition begins. In preparation I'd recommend a long relaxing soak with an exotic bath salt infusion from ShopCurious.

Afterwards, they can pop on a stylish vintage embroidered Chinese silk dressing gown for a spot of meditation before bye-byes (not forgetting their hot water with honey and lemon of course).

Do you?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

The height of fashion

Current fashion trends are all about contrast. The most slavishly style savvy mix cheap and chic chain store bargains with luxury designer brands to maximum effect. Those who are even more curiously clever somehow manage to locate truly individual or limited edition pieces that are not only original, but have a timeless style ... something that can be worn in ten years time and will still look good.

The trick to finding the best things for that eclectic look is to be ShopCurious, for instance you might:
1) spot something special and in limited supply before anyone else does and keep it in your wardrobe to bring out as and when desired, or
2) become the curator of your own vintage collection - finding top quality stylish vintage clothing and accessories in rather offbeat and unique places, like our website.

Talking of contrasts, the coming season might pose a bit of a dilemma on the shoe front - with both flats and stilettos as the trend du jour, which do we choose to wear and when? Well, you can always go for comfort, but unless you have fabulously long legs (think Carla Bruni or Elle Macpherson), you'd better make sure your choice of footwear is as aesthetically pleasing as possible, since the low heel option rarely stacks up in the glamour stakes.

If you opt for style over comfort, we have some very elegant vintage stilettos, evening shoes and strappy sandals that are beautifully designed, utterly feminine and surprisingly easy to walk in.

Not just real cute, but curiously collectable too, are several pairs of early Tom Ford spike stiletto heeled Gucci shoes from around 1996-7. These much fought over shoes were in very limited supply and subject to a hugely long waiting list - but they're every bit as hot today as they were all those years ago.

Look out for more sexy high heels arriving at ShopCurious very soon.
Will you?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Food for thought

On to New Designers part 2, covering the likes of product design, furniture, graphic design, illustration and architecture, with exhibits from students throughout the UK.

There was so much talent out there and some really creative and original ideas were in evidence. I was totally overawed. I've chosen to give a snapshot of a few of the things that were curiously amusing - with the serious message that new designers are often young graduates - who, whilst hoping to be iconic designers of the future, are only at the beginning of a long journey.

This blog is mainly about what goes into our stomachs, because food simply has to be on all our plates every day and it's big in the press too, which seems to count for everything these days - so you're probably best blaming them rather than the government for food price inflation - and for inspiring so many food-related ideas at New Designers.

Perhaps even Gordon Brown, a man with a certain amount of experience, who gave the opening speech at New Designers last year, could learn a thing or two from this educational designer plate for bulimics (above right). Waste not, want not!

Whilst Gordon masticates on corn stuffed with caviar, kelp-flavoured cold Kyoto beef and diced fatty flesh of tuna (let alone the next five courses, no wonder he looks a bit sickly), ShopCurious considers what's potentially on offer to the rest of us from new designers who will be shaping the way we eat tomorrow:

Zeke Abry from Leeds Metropolitan University has come up with the idea for a kitchen-based 'information centre' designed to promote healthy eating, with calorie consumption and dietary advice, plus help with creating shopping lists (in conjunction with major supermarkets of course) and handy tips for meal preparation.

What I really liked about this idea was the ability to film your (excuse the Americanism) 'mom's home-cooking' for posterity and keep it on your information centre - I do hope he thinks up a better name for this. What's more this device also doubles up as a baby, or perhaps an emo monitor in the meantime (right). There's multi-tasking for you. Is this a man vs. women thing or what? Girls, I suggest you start growing herbs out of your purpose built kitchen table immediately: Adele Bird, left, has created the very thing.

Our curiously corpulent future (dismissing any possibility of global recession, food shortages and mass starvation) sparked the imagination of a number of designers and one design that caught my eye was Nicholas Morris's rather prettily designed hydro cycle (left), the base of which is half filled with water. It's rather like a modern version of the pedalo, which could be used in swimming pools and lakes to kick start kids into action, if they're not too busy sharpening their knives. And those were also on display.

Though these unusual designer cactus knives by Andrew Seward (above and left) at least have a sense of humour. As do the designer beer mats by Jamie Wood (right and below left).

If all else fails, one could always live on beer. A popular favourite with everyone from young graduates and new designers to Gordon Brown alike.

Will you?

Friday, 11 July 2008

Blue Peter badges...

Following my recent trip to the Henley Royal Regatta last week, I'm still mulling over the fashions that were on display. The men were somewhat like peacocks: wearing blazers, boaters and showing off their prized badges. It always amazes me how much men love to belong to clubs and wear badges - it's often a football or a golf club, but in the case of Henley it's a rowing affiliation, or perhaps a gentleman's club. Could wearing all this MCC rowing club regalia (left) be the male equivalent of a woman wearing all her jewellery at the same time?

Some of the most prized badges at Henley are those for the Steward's Enclosure (above right and left) and the Leander Club (the small round badge on the right). The card badges are merely to allow access for the day's racing, but the metal badges offer the right to attend meetings for the duration of the regatta.

There's generally a lot of attention to detail in dressing for Henley - it seems that men are proud of their labels - from those on their jackets (left) to their Leander Club signature socks (right) - and for others there is always the badge of office (below left).

Some smart fellows even accessorize their outfits with their own unique trophies. The lovely chaps from the Bedford Rowing Club (right) meet each year on Friday at Henley for what call 'flower day' where they adorn the lapels of their jackets with huge floral corsages. One has even created his own badge of honour in the form of a very stylish and totally individual rosette (below left). How very ShopCurious!

I simply love going to Henley and seeing the variety of fashions on view - for men it's so curiously chic.
Are you?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Mad hatters?

Inspired by the vision of so many men dressing so stylishly for Henley, I've decided to do a bit of a men's fashion week on the blog front. I'm especially pleased to note that men also like to add individual touches to their outfits at Henley - it's not only women who make an effort to stand out from the crowd.

Take the man below left with his miniature sized boater, whom I spotted trying to chat up a large group of rather boisterous older ladies. And this photo which captures the inimitable Uncle Roger, who has worn the same boater for many years - at one stage it appeared to be falling to pieces, so it must have been repaired since then. This time he showed us the inside (pictured here), revealing the newspaper lining, which we observed is the Daily Express from 4th July 1947: there's no accounting for Uncle Roger's taste, but the boater's curiously cool.

To the right is Uncle Roger in a previous incarnation at Henley a few years ago, wearing another fine hat (actually one of mine), which sets off his stripey blazer and tie perfectly - in fact I think it suits him far better than it did me...

More evidence of men getting ahead in the fashion stakes: I notice that lots of men at Henley choose to express their individual style through their clothes - and some even opt for headgear that's less traditional than the customary boater, as illustrated by the characters below, including (from left) Charles Armstrong in a natty straw hat, John Robbins (a very talkative little fellow from the Furnival Rowing Club) in his trilby and this rather distinguished looking gentleman wearing a turban.

The rowers and some of the fans in their enclosure tended to favour a less formal and more practical look - including this flag wielding groupie - no prizes for guessing the nationality of the team he's supporting.

And, finally, there were those for whom the hats of choice were predetermined, like this security attendant in the Steward's Enclosure and the immaculately uniformed guards performing on the bandstand, who must have been sweltering in the hot sunshine. Don't they look smart though?

One of the best things about Henley Royal Regatta is that it's such a friendly event. It's not just about posing - most people are there because they are either rowing, they know someone who's rowing, or they belong to a rowing club. It's all very authentic and it allows the opportunity for everyone to express their own unique style - a concept that we at ShopCurious strongly support.
Do You?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Jolly stylish fellows

To Henley-on-Thames, for the Henley Royal Regatta, where I was curious to see what the ladies were wearing. But, as I soon discovered, it's the men who really dress up at Henley... so I decided to devote some serious blogging space to the men's fashion week that is Henley.

One of the things that the rowing regatta is noted for is its brightly coloured blazers. The rowing clubs usually offer summer and winter blazers - the summer ones are often stripey or in lighter colours eg cream with a piped ribbon edging, whereas the winter jackets are thicker more woolly/felt-like material, but also with a piped edging. Lots of men retain these from their school or university college days and continue to wear them year after year, which makes for some interesting and sometimes ill-fitting sights by the river - though everyone I met this year looked immaculately turned out...
From above left to right: the guys in red from Kingston Rowing Club, the Army Boat Club blazer (you'd never guess!) and the curiously colourful Nat West Rowing Club jacket.

Then (above left) the bright young things from Radley College, a more seasoned type and member of Tideway Scullers (above right) and the wearer of a very prestigious jacket from the Cambridge 1999 Boat Race team (above centre) - and right, a close up showing the stains acquired over the years - of great sentmental value, since each stain has an associated story of how it got there ... we don't want to hear, thank you very much!

Some opt for the more traditional type of blazer - be it the traditonal navy blue, gold buttoned type, as modelled by the statuesque Leander Club member below left, to light weight cotton and linen (below centre) - but some men just don't know how to do the understated look and have to go the whole hog, especially if they belong to the London New Zealand Cricket Club (below right).

Men of the cloth also get to wear their blazers too. Like the honorary curate (left) from Holy Trinity, Clapham, who once rowed in the 1st eight for Pembroke College, Oxford. Of course, there are others for whom the blazer is simply not an option.

And there's the street cred factor to consider as well. Have you ever heard the phrase 'hoodies hardly ever happen at Henley'? Probably not, because I just made it up - and there were some very happening hoodies at Henley this year, as pictured below left, along with some friendly (I managed to get a smile at least) locals, centre, and possibly the most curiously cool guy around - a very Brideshead young man sporting a Monaco Yacht Club blazer, which was beautifully fitted with hand-stitched panels at the back...I was so impressed by the workmanship I even have a photo if you want to see it?

Finally, there were also the lycra-clad rowers as well ... the reason for all the dressing up I suppose, although they all seemed to be in various states of undress - from the start of the race as shown below left, to the finish (the chap in the middle was unfortunately in a losing team from Hamburg) - and even baring their chests: most un-British!
I'd like to mention that we do have a few bits and bobs for men on the ShopCurious website, including some rather unusual gifts and vintage accessories. We'll be offering a wider selection in the future, so please let us know if you have any preferences - we aim to provide things with personality and style to ensure that you remain jolly stylish fellows.
Are you?